Friday, April 01, 2016

'Benjamin Franklin: An American Life' (2003): Take II

A wee bit more from Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003).

Ben Franklin (1705/1706-1790) was a thinker and doer, a writer, a printer, a satirist, a promoter of books, a lover of libraries and postal services and lightning rods. He was fueled by a lifelong "gift of curiosity." He enjoyed solitude as well as social networking. At all ages and in all the places he traveled, he kept engaged with the world around him. He believed in making things better in pragmatic ways, whether postal delivery or air quality in fledgling cities.

Benjamin Franklin also had enemies. "He was on the side of religious tolerance rather than evangelical faith" (page 477); he was both viscerally and rationally opposed to the dogmas of the Puritans and strongly against fanatical poltroons in general. The likes of a Ted Cruz would have disgusted him, but also inspired his biting satire.

Isaacson quotes John Adams' reflections on Mr. Franklin later in life (in 1815): 

"He had a vast imagination . . . He had wit at will . . . He had a satire that was good-natured or caustic, Horace or Juvenal, Swift or Rabelais, at his pleasure. He had talents for irony, allegory and fable that he could adapt with great skill to the promotion of moral and political truth. . ." (pages 477-478)
Franklin's Reception at the Court of France, 1778. Anton Hohenstein.

If you think of Ben Franklin, what's the first or second or third thing that pops into your mind?

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune. 


t said...

I'm not made of money, Honey.
I do believe you are, Mr. Benjamin.

Charles Gramlich said...

A Bewitched episode where Aunt Clara brought Ben Franklin into the modern world.